A mother discovered her five-year- old daughter drawing with her crayons on some paper. “What are you drawing?” she asked. “A picture of God” the little girl said. The mother replied; “No one knows what God looks like.” “They will when I am through” the girl said.
Would that we all had that same confidence. For many years there was great controversy over whether, under the Word, with it’s admonition regarding “graven images”, we could depict deity. The Catholic church has argued for many years that their images and symbols are a vital part of their worship.
The key word is; are they venerated (worshipped) in themselves? Are we to believe that Michelangelo and the other Italian Masters. who were then commissioned by the church, creating work forbidden by God? Are contemporary artists, sculptors, and creators of images likewise subject to the same scrutiny or condemnation? The answer is probably not, given the recent attention given to the rebirth of “biblical narrative” works.
The condemnation is principally based upon the Constitution-based requirement of the separation of Church and State. Historical scholars insist that the intent was not to protect the State from the Church, but rather the reverse. That separation was to protect the Church from the State. Additionally, under the “equal protection clause” that all religions are to be allowed representation; one may not be favored. That has given rise to the whole struggle about Christian displays in public venues at Christmas.
Some time ago I wrote about the edict from the State’s Attorney that my work be taken down from a public (County) venue.. This happened to be a Senior Center where I had explicitly Christian paintings hanging in the dining room where we (as an art group) had hung work under permission for a matter of years. They were removed. The ironic part was that the day previous I had been asked to say the blessing publicly; having done so in Jesus’ name at lunch time in the same room. I could speak of Jesus, but I could not display a painting of Him.
Fortunately, to a great extent, doors in the public domain, including government, have been opened as organizations such as ACLJ (American Council for Law and Justice) have begun to prevail in the courts regarding religious displays.
I have departed from the original question posed by the little girl’s mother; Can or may one depict God in any of His “persons” even if permitted by the State. I confess, not so bravely and assuredly as the little girl, I have many times tried to.
We are told that God has given us each gifts; that His Spirit within us will encourage us for expression, and that He actually will, at times, be that voice for us. It will be His hand upon us as we write, speak, paint, or sing – as we give tribute to His Holy inspiration. It is then a vehicle for bringing beauty and truth to others. Others who have the free will can decide how to interpret or embrace it…… or look away, rejecting it’s message.
With each effort to bring that truth to others we are strengthened, not by the level of acceptance, but by the knowledge that we are carrying out some of God’s purpose instilled in us. In the end it may well be the prayer of all of us that, speaking of the viewer or listener,” They will know when I am through”. They will be somehow touched as we try to “Sing a new Song” in every expression we undertake and in a voice never totally our own.
Let that child-like spirit arise in you that you may show His face in what you do; even through that darkened glass of human experience and interpretation.